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Star Citizen turns 7, celebrates with a big update for multiplayer

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Spelunking added along with resource collection and ship rental

A player avatar takes a knee inside a cave system, aiming a mining tool at a rock outcrop in the alpha 3.7 update for the Star Citizen persistent universe game. Roberts Space Industries and Cloud Imperium Games

The team behind the Star Citizen project has released a substantial new update for its multiplayer game. Referred to as alpha 3.7, this version of the persistent universe (or the PU, as it’s called) includes underground caves, ship rental, and more. The full patch notes are available online.

As of Oct. 11, the Star Citizen PU now includes vast subsurface cave systems on planets, moons, and asteroids. Players can enter those caves and use a handheld mining tool to extract resources. Extraction was previously only available to those who had purchased specific pre-release starships capable of mining on the surface of stellar bodies.

The update also includes the addition of so-called “Quantum Enforcement” devices, which allow players to pull ships out of faster-than-lightspeed travel. The system is similar to the interdiction mechanic available in Elite: Dangerous and is expected to add some new gameplay for those interested in piracy.

Alpha 3.7 adds the ability to rent ships with in-game currency. Previously the only way to fly most of the ships in the multiplayer game was to purchase them with real-world cash. Alpha 3.7 also includes a new map for the PU’s first-person shooter module (Star Marine) and enhancements to its in-fiction flight combat simulator (Arena Commander).

Star Citizen began as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, earning more than $2.1 million in funding. Since then, it earned more than $237.8 million from additional backers, $46 million from a private investor, and additional income from promotions with companies like Intel. It remains the single most highly-funded crowdfunding venture — video gaming or otherwise — of all time.

Since its inception the Star Citizen project has split into two distinct games. The first, called Squadron 42, is a single-player experience starring Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson and other A-list actors. That game isn’t expected to enter its beta phase until late 2020. The PU game, on the other hand, is playable, in active development, and has no release date.